Majestic’s Jeff Morr on brokerage, branding and reinventing the Miami condo

From leading the movement toward building apartment lofts in Miami to naming streets in Miami’s Midtown neighborhood, Jeff Morr, founder and CEO of Majestic Properties, a real estate company that specializes in helping developers conceptualize, design, brand and sell their building,, has been at the forefront of Miami’s real estate market for almost two decades. Majestic, which is headquartered in the Design District, has four offices in the Miami area. Morr has partnered with high-profile developers on building construction designs, including 10 Museum Park, the Caribbean and the mixed-use Midtown development, for the latter of which he even named the streets. Morr talked to The Real Deal about how his company has weathered the downturn, the strength of Miami Beach’s housing market and the science of branding buildings.

Is there a submarket in Miami that has performed better out of the downturn than you expected?

What’s interesting is that South Beach has been the most resilient market. South Beach, especially the luxury sector — some buildings, and single-family homes, haven’t seen any drop — they’ve seen an increase. So South Beach and Miami Beach have really surprised us. On the upper end, the market has continued to appreciate. If you drive around the waterfront neighborhoods [on Miami Beach], you’ll see new homes going up like crazy. You’ll see new record prices, people buying big homes. On the lower end, it’s all been a factor of pricing. The units and houses that are selling are all either financed or cash purchases by investors, and they’re really just looking for steals. For example, at Midtown Miami, where the developers haven’t filed for Fannie Mae approval, they have sales happening in the $200-per-square-foot range, and the only buyers are cash deals.

You’ve done a lot in terms of branding and design — not just brokerage work. What does that entail?

Some of the buildings we did were Marquis, 10 Museum Park, Paramount Bay, Midtown Miami and the Caribbean, Nirvana. In some of these buildings — I got to design the building with the architect from the ground up — down to the floorplans, the finishes, and introduced new features to the development world. In many cases, we worked with buildings where the shells were already designed. In others, I just reconfigured buildings that were already designed.

What kinds of things did you add to Miami condo market that weren’t there before?

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The loft concept was never in Miami. There were only lofts in Chicago, New York and London. We added the loft concept, the concept of deeper balconies. I grew up in Tel Aviv, and used to spend every summer at my grandmother’s place. In Tel Aviv there was no air conditioning, so people didn’t spend time indoors. The buildings all had these very deep, wide balconies where everyone had breakfast, lunch and dinner. We started having balconies that were eight to 10 feet deep. We also added the use of rooftop terraces in most of the buildings we’ve done. In Tel Aviv, every penthouse has a rooftop — but people weren’t using the rooftops in Miami. The way we branded buildings  — for example, instead of doing just a number, we gave buildings a personality. We did some very sexy advertising [at buildings like 10 Museum Park].

What was your experience like working with architect Chad Oppenheim, who also had a large impact on Miami’s design, on 10 Museum Park?

I met Chad when he was working out of a one-bedroom condo in South Beach. We worked on quite a few projects together, and crafted some nice concepts together.

What do you see in store for residential development in the near term?

In Miami, you [bulk buyers] can still buy for less than [the cost of] replacement. Residential development isn’t going to be in the arena for another one or two years.